After two centuries of revolutionary developments in chemistry, has new knowledge acquisition within this essential field of science started to reach a saturation point? Well, not so fast!
Chemistry in this millennium is redefining itself as a strongly multidisciplinary science at the center of major advances in materials science, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and medicine. The construction of complex molecules and supramolecular assemblies that are conferred functions bring forth a diverse array of fundamental advances in different areas of our society. Observations from Nature imply that the next logical step of complexity in chemistry will follow what Nature itself has perfected over millions of years, despite its rather limited set of building blocks – indeed, it is likely that very large molecules and their complex assemblies will perform increasingly complex functions to the benefit of society.
My group’s aim is to contribute to solving important current problems in the design and understanding of the materials properties of organic molecules. The judicious use of the powerful tools of modern organic synthesis is at the core of this research, as compounds have to be prepared first, then studied, and often modified to enhance the desired properties. ‘Engineering’ the desired physical properties in organic molecules and their solids has also become a strong focus of current technological research, for example in the development of organic photovoltaic devices with high conversion efficiencies. However, it is still difficult to predict or design molecular properties from first principles (theoretical calculations), especially for bulk organic materials. Hence, our group relies on analogies between classes of compounds, semi-quantitative approximations, and most importantly creative solutions to tackle our research projects on organic materials.
Our research has converged on three areas of chemistry associated with important physical properties: Fullerenes and carbon nanotubes, organic superconductors, and organic ferromagnets. Fullerenes and carbon nanotubes are important because they have become the de facto carbon-rich nanomaterial with an astonishing array of physical properties of crucial importance (e.g. superconductivity, ferromagnetism, photovoltaic systems, and much more). On the other hand, organic superconducting tetrathiafulvalenes (TTFs) have been studied in the last 20 years for being the first organic compounds to display superconductivity. So far, a maximum superconductivity transition temperature (Tc) of 13 K has been reached, but we believe that their potential as high temperature superconductors remains high because the molecular ordering of these systems in a truly three dimensional network has not been addressed satisfyingly yet (all TTF superconducting phases are 2-dimensional). Organic ferromagnets have been pursued for several years with some key successes. They have real technological potential where cheap, easily processed magnetic devices are needed. The challenge of ordering spins in a purely organic material at room temperature still needs to be met. We are working in this direction as seen at the end of this summary.
The following are our current research projects:
Our work has been made possible over the years thanks to the generous financial support from the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences as part of an Energy Frontier Research Center, the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, and the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation. Yves Rubin is especially grateful to the previous and current coworkers of the group for their invaluable intellectual and experimental contributions. Special thanks go to Drs. Saeed I. Kahn and Jane Strouse for their precious help with X-ray and NMR characterization of the compounds.